When Ben lived in Rock Springs, Wyoming, one of his favored activities was backpacking in the Wind River Mountain Range and one of the early outings Ben and I took after we met, before we moved to Montana, was backpacking. Again, in the Wind Rivers.
When we did move to Montana, we were looking forward to backpacking in the mountains surrounding us, but for some strange reason – well, our intense work schedule, to be honest, we didn’t go backpacking for ten years after we built our studio. To be honest, the only reason we went on that tenth year was because Sue moved into the log cabin just up creek from us. She instantly became one of our best all-time friends and when she found out we hadn’t been backpacking in Montana, she decided it was time to put an end to that nonsense and get us into the Crazy Mountains.
Sue has a huge supply of modern backpacking equipment. Ben and I had the old fashioned aluminum frame backpacks and everything else we owned for camping was the heavy stuff people usually only car camp with. Besides having the equipment, Sue is also incredibly adept at organizing for a backpack trip.
That next summer, at the end of July in 2004, Sue’s daughter Sonja came to Montana and the four of us headed into the Crazies. Once we got into the Crazies, Ben and I got one of the greatest shocks of our lives.
The Crazy Mountains are a rather small range of mountains. They certainly are stunning to watch on a daily basis. The snow packs deep during the winter and during the summer the green of the grasses contrasted by the dark pines is dazzling. Sunsets and sunrises startle the senses with vivid colors most people rarely experience. But neither Ben nor I had any idea what that small range entailed once you hiked past the foothills. Within the mountain range are raging crystal creeks, glaciers, cirques, azure and turquoise lakes, and spectacular wildlife and wildflowers. And when you’re backpacking across the range, engulfed by the spectacular sight and sounds, the mountains feel like they extend into eternity.
We backpacked an average of about eight miles a day, though we thought we were only going six. At the end of the day we were exhausted, but you couldn’t have scraped the smiles off our faces. On the third day we come out on the Big Timber side and as soon as we hit civilization, we all wanted to cross back over. We all had to get back to our lives, but after what we had been through, the artificiality of our “real” world was terribly unappealing. Sue bribed us to rejoin civilization with milkshakes at a small shop in Big Timber, so we didn’t defect and retreat back into the mountain.
We’ve been backpacking several times since that first trip, but both Ben and I hold a special place in our memories for that first trip.
All of the following pictures are compliments of Sue, since she was the only one who took a camera on that trip. Sue takes great photos, so it was really difficult to pick just a few to post. I scanned a lot more in, too, so next post or so I’ll put up some more.
Ben and I riding in the back of the pickup to the trailhead.
On the trail.
Me, crossing the creek.
Ben, me and Sonja at the end of the first day.
Me and Ben glorying in the view.
Sonja, Ben and me having breakfast in the warm morning sun.
Sonja on the trail.
Sue and Sonja.
Ben and me
Ben and Kilimanjaro
Sonja washing up the breakfast dishes.
Sue’s self portrait.
The glory of the mountain.